The proposed repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members is attached as a provision to a broad bill that authorizes defense spending. LGBT equality advocates had hoped that the Democratic majority in the Senate would succeed in limiting further debate on the bill so that it could move forward.
Instead, Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Olympia Snowe, two Republicans from Maine widely seen as crucial votes on the bill, decided to oppose it, citing Democrats’ refusal to allow Republican amendments to the legislation.
“Today’s Senate vote was a frustrating blow to repeal this horrible law,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), an LGBT legal organization lobbying for repeal. “We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections. Let’s be clear: opponents of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ did not have the votes to strike those provisions from the bill. Instead, they had the votes for delay.”
The legislation received sparse coverage in the media until it attracted the attention of pop powerhouse Lady Gaga, who regularly vocalizes her strong support of LGBT equality. Gaga on Monday attended a rally in Maine in hopes of persuading the state’s two senators to back the bill.
"Equality is the prime rib of America,” she said in her speech to a crowd of several hundred. "But because I’m gay I don’t get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer."
President Obama vowed in his campaign to end the discriminatory military policy during his first year in office. But Democrats’ failure to block a filibuster promised by Senate Republicans forecasts a delay in the abolition of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until at least next year, and some equality advocates fear the pending midterm elections could result in a future Congress less sympathetic to LGBT issues.
“Time is the enemy here,” said SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis. “We now have no choice but to look to the lame duck session where we’ll have a slim shot. The Senate absolutely must schedule a vote in December when cooler heads and common sense are more likely to prevail once midterm elections are behind us.”
An estimated 13,000 military personnel – and counting– have been discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule since its passage in 1993.